About 55 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas, according to the United Nations, and that number is expected to grow to 68 percent by 2050. It is hard to believe that in 1950 the world’s urban population was about 751 million, and today, we are well past four billion! Urban living has many benefits such as the ability to walk to shops, restaurants, and cultural events, public transportation which can negate the need for a car, and of course, many opportunities for employment. While urban living has plenty of pluses, people living in neighborhoods with trees get an extra perk — better health.
Most of us know that trees work hard on our behalf in the following ways:
• Reduce air pollution
• Reduce summer heat and glare
• Reduce soil erosion
• Provide habitat for wildlife
• Increase property values
• Provide oxygen
• Protect against cold winter winds
• Reduce noise
• Beautify our surroundings
• Absorb stormwater
• Provide food for people and animals
Trees have also been attributed to improving our physical and mental well-being. People make more walking trips to task destinations such as coffee shops and stores when they perceive there are more natural features such as trees in the neighborhood. In a European study, urban adults in areas with the highest levels of greenery were three times as likely to be physically active.
Neighborhoods with abundant trees have fewer crimes. This is thought to be because trees encourage people to get outdoors, increasing social interactions amongst neighbors, which in turn leads to building a sense of community.
Tree cover has a significant impact on nitrogen dioxide levels, a big part of smog and one of the six leading air pollutants identified by the Environmental Protection Agency. Because trees absorb pollutants from the air, a healthy city tree canopy reduces respiratory ailments such as asthma.
According to an article from the University of Minnesota, a study was done on the effects of scenery on surgery patient recovery. The patients who had a view of trees from their hospital room tolerated pain better, appeared to nurses to have fewer negative side effects, and spent less time in the hospital than those with a view of a wall.
All of these examples, studies, and statistics reinforce what we already know; urban trees improve the quality of life for all. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry (DOF) has an excellent urban program which offers organizational and technical assistance to communities. One of the resources you can find on the DOF webpage is the
“Urban Forestry Toolbox,” which lists research papers that support our need for trees, along with valuable information on tree care and tree health. Check out forestry.ohiodnr.gov/urban to learn more.
Visit the Delaware Soil and Water Conservation District at soilandwater.co.delaware.oh.us and find us on Facebook and Instagram. See what is coming up in August and September, including our events at the Delaware County Fair.
Bonnie Dailey is deputy director of the Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District. For information, go to www.soilandwater.co.delaware.oh.us.